This evening, I find myself looking back into the past. If Mr. Peabody and Sherman were here, they’d be setting the WAYBAC machine for the year 1968. (Side note: Mr. Peabody and Sherman were cartoon characters appearing on the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon show of the mid sixties.)
I was 14 years old during some part of 1969, and living in San Angelo, Texas. My father was in the Air Force and stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base. I loved living in Texas. I became a Boy Scout and enjoyed all the scouting activities, especially summer camp. Most days during the summer were spent at the base swimming pool. It was always warm and there was no humidity in central Texas. Although, I don’t think humidity was on my mind back then. I had a lot of friends, none of which I could name or even picture in my mind. Not one.
One evening, my father called the family together because he had news. He told us that he’d been assigned to Clark Air Base, in the Philippines. Moving wasn’t unusual in my family. The longest we normally stayed put was between 2 and 3 years. (Side note: In the course of my primary, secondary and high school education, I attended 14 different schools.) But this time was the first time we’d be leaving the country.
My father was leaving ahead of us and we were to travel to the Philippines about 2 months later. This wasn’t the first time he had been stationed away from the family. Usually he would only be gone for a month or maybe up to 3 months. These were called TAD (temporary additional duty) assignments.
At the time, I didn’t have much of a reaction to the announcement of our impending move. I didn’t think about missing my friends. I didn’t worry about fitting into a new school. Those things were fairly routine events in my life and I was used to moving and all it entailed. From what I can remember, each time we moved I looked tentatively forward to the adventure ahead. But as I said, I didn’t really dwell on the matter. Making friends at the next destination would be easy; many of the kids there would also be expert migrant dependent children of military personnel.
I’ll jump ahead to give an example of the ease involved in establishing new friendships–I met my high school dormitory roommate in the B.X. (Base Exchange, the only store on the base, it carried everything) on Iraklion Air Station, Crete, Greece in the summer of 1971. We talked for a little while and we decided we’d be roommates when we left to attend the boarding high school in a few weeks. I didn’t see him again until I arrived at the school. We were friends the entire year until his father got reassigned sometime just before the school year ended. It was just that simple.
Now I’m getting ready to go to the Philippines. There wasn’t anything for me to actually DO, but there were some changes in life before leaving. After my father left, my mother asked me to drive the car one day. I’d never driven a car before but I knew what the brake and gas pedals were for. The steering wheel was obvious. I got in the car, my brother and sister sat in the back (no seat belts) and my mother sat in the front passenger seat. I have no idea where we went but I drove us there. After that, my mother was delighted to be driven everywhere as she had been previously by my father, although now it was by her unlicensed 14 year old son.
Being 14 and left to be the “man of the house,” I was then more independent than ever. I used to sneak out of the house at night to meet friends to go, well, wherever we went. Specifically, I remember one time we walked (about 2 miles or so) to the Concho River for a swim. Not a brilliant idea considering the abundance of water moccasins (AKA Cottonmouths) that could be found in just about any body of water in that region.
I think my nightly outings continued for several weeks until the night I was picked up by the police and brought home. My mother had no idea what to do about it and nothing was ever said about it after the fact.
Another incident comes to mind in which an impending thunderstorm was imminent, one that had been forecast to be very intense with the highest probability of hail and even the possibility of a tornado. I was home from school but my brother had different school hours and would be soon walking home. My mother told me to go pick him up due to the dangerous situation he’d be in while walking home, so I drove off (by myself) to find him.
Soon after leaving, the hail did come and very large hailstones fell, some as large as baseballs (or so it seemed). In any case, they were large enough to pelt the car and make dozens of dents in it. This wasn’t a time to be outside unprotected. I soon found my brother, I don’t remember if he’d been hit by any hail or not, but I drove home through this severe thunderstorm with its intense lightening, hail and wind. It was so dark that the few cars I saw on the road had their lights on. I didn’t have my lights on; I hadn’t ever driven at night and didn’t know how to turn them on.
The day came that the movers arrived and they packed up our belongings into a moving truck. Looking back, it seemed like we had a lot of stuff to move but now when I think about it, we had very little. I’m pretty sure that if I were moving that amount of belongings today, I would be able to move it all in about 4 trips using my truck. In any case, everything is packed and taken away, including the car. Yes, the car went to the Philippines too.
Travel day must have been soon, perhaps we left that day, I don’t remember. I do remember the airport, but not how we got there. We boarded a small propeller plane. I remember thinking it was really small. Not Cessna small, but small for a passenger plane. This plane would terrify me today, but back then, I was either oblivious to danger, fearless or indifferent. We flew to a major airport and took another (larger) plane to California. From there we flew to Hawaii, then to Wake Island and stopped in Guam before arriving in the Philippines.
Upon arriving in the Philippines, I remember the overwhelming humidity I felt when the plane door opened. I had just come from an arid region and now walked out of the plane (there was no jet way as there would be today) into an extremely humid tropical monsoon climate. Climate shock!
Living in the Philippines was fantastic. All my memories of living off-base (In the Diamond Subdivision) are warm (no pun intended), pleasant and are an exciting time to reminisce about my experiences in the late sixties. I may pick up this story line again and write about my time in the Philippines but here is where today’s story ends. I turned 15 during my time in the Philippines, where were you when youwere 15 and what was your life like?